Fact-Check: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Criticizes Will Smith for Slapping Chris Rock

In a viral post, the basketball legend was quoted as saying Smith had “perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community.”

Several Snopes readers contacted us in March 2022 to inquire about the veracity and provenance of statements claimed to basketball icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in which he harshly chastised Will Smith for slapping Chris Rock at that year’s Academy Awards.

For example, published an article with the headline “‘He did a lot more damage than just to Rock’s face’: Kareem Abdul Jabbar slams Will Smith over Chris Rock Oscars slap.” 

On social media, a lengthy message — attributed to Abdul-Jabbar — went viral. It typically began:

When Will Smith stormed onto the Oscar stage to strike Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife’s short hair, he did a lot more damage than just to Rock’s face. With a single petulant blow, he advocated violence, diminished women, insulted the entertainment industry, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Black community…

Social media posts

Those quotations were genuine, and Abdul-Jabbar wrote the telegram himself.

In a March 28 article titled “Will Smith Did a Bad, Bad Thing,” Abdul-Jabbar added the subheadline “Slapping Chris Rock was also a blow to men, women, the entertainment industry, and the Black community” to his Substack page:

Substack: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar